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Transcript of doorstop: Alice Springs: 3 August 2018: $2 million for a national Indigenous eyesight program; Greater focus on Indigenous health outcomes; My Health Record

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Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health


3 August 2018



Topics: $2 million for a national Indigenous eyesight program; Greater focus on Indigenous health outcomes; My Health Record

JONATHAN HERMAWAN: Good morning. We’re here at Mbantua Alice Springs at the Akeyulerre Healing Centre. We’re here with the ministers, Minister Wyatt and Minister Hunt, and also with (inaudible) and Aunty Amelia Turner. I’m Jonathan Hermawan, and this is- also, I’m working for Red Dust Role Models.


Thanks very much to Jono, to Aunty Irene , Aunty Amelia, to Ken Wyatt and to everybody, it’s a privilege to be on country, Arrernte country, to be here and with Red Dust, Akeyulerre and with Children’s Ground. In particular, we’ve been looking at two things today. One is how we support young Indigenous kids, strengthen their culture and therefore strengthen their health by acknowledging culture, by supporting traditional culture, traditional medicine, in conjunction with other medicine.

We give people a base where they know their value, and in particular, the strong evidence is that this can help with preventing youth mental health and youth suicide issues. And if you can address youth mental health and youth suicide, that is about a fundamental value of culture in each individual life. And so we’ll be working with Red Dust, we’ve invited them to put forward programs in relation to youth mental health and youth suicide. They are extraordinary leaders along with all of those here today.

The second thing is we are working with Vision 2020 and we’ll be contributing $2 million to a national Indigenous eyesight program. The $2 million will help with access to glasses. I think Ken, you’re symbolically sharing your glasses with Aunty Irene and this is about literally ensuring that through Vision 2020, more Indigenous Australians have better eyesight and that’s a fundamental right. And it’s a key contributor to better health outcomes, because people feel more confident, they're able to have better facility in life, and at the end of the day, it’s about taking care who are most vulnerable at their moment of need. Ken?

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.


It’s great to be here with Red Dust and with both of the aunties because it’s been a tremendous morning in which we’ve shared an understanding of the complementarity between Western medicine, but traditional healing. And looking at the way in which both family, individuals and community are important.

But the other important part of this morning’s visit is the announcement that Minister Hunt has just made, because we listen with our ears but our people also listen with their eyes, and our eyes are important in watching the nuances of things that happen around us. And Aunty I’ve got a pair of glasses here that I’d like you to try, and see if your eyesight improves with those. And if they do, you can keep those and then when you do those dot paintings you’ll be able to see those little lines a lot better.

AUNTY IRENE: Yeah I see clearly with this (inaudible). And it’s so beautiful to see it through.

KEN WYATT: Aunty, from now on, you’ll be able to see things.And the other thing is you're going to enjoy seeing people a distance from you like you once used to.

AUNTY IRENE: The Minister wants me to wear it, but maybe he’s going to give it to me now?

KEN WYATT: Aunty, they're yours now so you can see better.

AUNTY IRENE: Yes, thank you.

KEN WYATT: It’s our pleasure, and Minister Hunt and I are very keen to make sure that we give our people back a degree of sight that as young people they always had, but as we get older our eyesight changes. And this is a great way that we can make that better.

JONATHAN HERMAWAN: Better for hunting, better for chasing those young ones around. The sun looks brighter; the sky looks greener, bluer, and the grass look greener around you.


GREG HUNT: I’m delighted to be here on Arrernte country with Ken Wyatt and with all of our wonderful leaders such as Aunty Amelia and Aunty Irene. Today’s announcement is all about giving more Indigenous Australians better eyesight - $2 million to help Indigenous Australians be able to access eye glasses and support for better eyesight. There’s very little we can do which could be more important than helping people see and if we help them see we help them to live stronger, better lives.

JOURNALIST: Okay. Minister, you’ve spent three days in Central Australia now, what would you say is the most pressing health issue facing people here?

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

GREG HUNT: Critically it’s about chronic disease and chronic disease can affect eyesight, it can affect hearing, it can effect of course renal conditions. And today, working with Red Dust it’s about strengthening culture as part of the learning and medicine process. We’ve been listening and listening and listening and what we take away is if we can give people confidence in their culture and that it’s valued, and that they have a base, then of course, and Ken is the expert on this, they feel more stable and therefore they’re able to work between the different worlds and not be caught in a cycle of - whether it’s alcohol or drugs or other issues, and those things will give them the chance to operate fully over the course of a lifetime. Ken?

KEN WYATT: It’s been great being because we’ve had the chance to listen to grassroots conversations. We were out at St Theresa yesterday meeting with people there, listening to the issues and we take those learnings and bring them back in to impact on our policy directions. But from our programs that go to what people sometimes think is simple issues, losing your eyesight through unavoidable elements that come into a person’s life makes a difference.

When we gave Aunty Irene those glasses she sat there and she said to me, I can see the people standing near the camera. She hadn’t been able to do that. She’s now going away to read something. So this program is going to give back quality of the environment around each individual because country’s always been important. She’ll be able to see the footprints of the goannas, she’ll be able to see the very things that were part of her life on a regular basis and this is part of a total commitment by the COAG health ministers.

The last couple of days' discussions, hearing from Indigenous leaders has had a profound impact on all of the Australian health ministers and they have given a very strong undertaking now that Aboriginal health will be a key item on their agenda and they will continue now to focus on those things that will make a difference. And the cultural element has become a focus of our thinking and our understanding in a better way than it has been.

GREG HUNT: I’ll just add more thing and that is, the fact that we have agreement to an Indigenous-led National Indigenous Health and Medical Workforce Plan, will mean more Indigenous doctors, more Indigenous nurses and more Indigenous health workers. And that will make a huge difference to their career opportunities and to their employment opportunities and I think it will make an even bigger difference to health outcomes on the country.

JOURNALIST: Minister Hunt if I may, are you able to clarify what the government defines as privacy or data breaches and are they the same as what the data commissioner defines as a privacy breach?

GREG HUNT: Sure. The Digital Health Agency made a very clear statement yesterday that, over a system that covers six million Australians and has been operating for six years, their statement, which is a formal position that’s been put out, is no security or privacy breaches. The government has itself though, released information about things such as any errors in uploading which are then translated to the system, any errors or attempted Medicare fraud claims which are translated into the system and those were what were being referred to.

So, that’s a very simple thing. And it was the government, which actually released that information some months ago, which was then curiously reported as new yesterday, but in fact our information, our report. So the statement of the Digital Health Agency yesterday was clear and categorical, no security and no privacy breaches over the course of the six year.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

But of course in that time our reports, our releases themselves, confirm that things such as- you know, there will be errors in data upload and if somebody tries to do something inappropriate through the Medicare system that will be reported and corrected and that’s exactly as it should be.

JOURNALIST: That actually answers two of my questions in one. So thank you very much Minister Hunt.

GREG HUNT: There we go. Thank you. .

JOURNALIST: Sorry, this is on behalf of another journalist. And I do apologise, it’s quite a long-winded question. You’re providing money so people can do dialysis in more remote places, but hasn’t the Federal Government left some of Australia’s poorest people in poverty by withdrawing its support for remote outstation communities in the NT and leaving them as the sole responsibility of the cash-strapped NT Government?

KEN WYATT: When we consider the bilateral agreement in remote housing and remote communities that’s a commitment by both the Commonwealth and state, then they will continue to evolve in the strategies that will see the implementation of programs and services. But in Aboriginal health, we’ll continue to provide the levels of support through both direct programs and outreach programs, so that we’re not walking away from the health of Territorians.

JOURNALIST: What else is the Federal Government doing to help ensure that Indigenous people can live healthy and productive lives in their remote communities?

KEN WYATT: Well, there’s a raft of programs. We’re working very closely with Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations who provide programs on the ground, but also provide outreach. The programs such as Purple House, there are other initiatives through our maternal child health programs, there are also arrangements that we have in place with state and territory governments that will continue to provide services to Aboriginal people through the top end of Australia.

Even this morning I was in discussion with the WA Department of Health about the strategies that will strengthen both Commonwealth and state commitments to providing the types of services that are needed. Now, but the reality also is that you're not going to be able to put in small hospitals in some locations, so what you do is you work on a hub and spoke model that enables connectivity to services, but allowing individuals to live within their communities. So we’re trying to look at the best of both worlds, in which we recognise cultural considerations and obligations, being on country but also what we have as capacities, as state and territory governments in the Commonwealth, to provide services to people on the ground.

JOURNALIST: And I do realise this isn't directly in your ministry, but Federal Government CDP employment programs on many remote communities have been cut back. How are people expected to lead a productive life if they can’t find work?

KEN WYATT: Look, I think the CDP program reviewing process is in its early stages, and I know that Minister Scullion is working very closely with the relevant ministers for Aboriginal Affairs, and is certainly working with those state and territory governments where those decisions will result in bilateral discussions as to how we move forward on that matter.

Authorised by Greg Hunt MP, Liberal Party of Australia, Somerville, Victoria.

GREG HUNT: Now, I might just conclude with an overview of the three days. Ken has a deep personal passion for Indigenous health. For myself, I have a deep personal passion for improving Indigenous health. It’s one of the things that when you have the privilege of a role like this, this is our change to make a difference, and we came here not just to fly in, fly out, but we came for a really significant three-day visit. And on each of those days, I think we’ve been able to make progress, having learnt from Indigenous leaders.

On the first day, we were able to support 28 new programs for practical Indigenous health research and advancement. On the second day, we were able to bring all of the states and territories together with the Commonwealth for a once in a generation commitment to more Indigenous doctors, nurses and workers. And then finally, today, we’ve been able to play our part in contributing $2 million to giving better eyesight to Indigenous Australians across Australia. It’s not the end of the steps, but it’s a critical base for everything we do from here.

JOURNALIST: If I may, just very quickly, you were in Santa Teresa yesterday. Could you just reflect on what happened out of that community?

GREG HUNT: So we saw two things. We saw the incredible work of the extraordinary doctors and nurses and health workers at the clinic at Santa Teresa and they’ve been delivering babies on site. They’ve been dealing with accidents, they’ve been dealing with chronic conditions, they help run dialysis, and what we learnt from them is the success of their on the ground model, but the additional support that they need.

The other thing we saw was one of the economic bases of the community, where culture and economic outcomes come together, and that was the traditional art centre, the Indigenous art, employing so many of the locals. I did purchase a brilliant Australian rules football with dot point cover, that will be a prized possession at home, and it’s an example of culture meets economy meets the success of a community.

JOURNALIST: Thank you very much.

GREG HUNT: Thank you.